back to article Ah, uni days! Drugs, sex, parties... sci-tech startups? Not so much

The number of university spinouts is falling since the glory days of the late 1990s onwards. Data from Oxford University Innovation reckons on 160 spinouts in 2001, whereas Spinouts UK, which tracks companies emerging from unis across the UK, racked up 51 new companies in 2016. Those figures differ markedly from the cheery …

  1. Buzzword

    Meanwhile in America ...

    ... someone stuck wifi on a doorbell and sold it for $1bn.

    If I had a brainy idea, I'd be on the first flight to Silicon Valley to bring it to market.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Meanwhile in America ...

      Its not the wifi on the doorbell that's worth 1 beellion dollars but the data mining potential - coming soon to google now "you recently visited Mary ... here are directions to Jane's house?" (or, given google ad's propensity to give you ads on things you've just bought then it will be "you recently visited Jane ... here is her address")

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Meanwhile in America ...

      If we are to believe the press (and we do, right? Right?) the doorbell will cause existential crisis and personality meltdown in the millennial generation. Just google "millennial doorbell" if you doubt me. The inescapable conclusion then is that the WIFI project will be worth grillions.

      1. Peter2 Silver badge

        Re: Meanwhile in America ...

        Just google "millennial doorbell" if you doubt me.

        I doubted you and googled it. I used to think that the term "snowflake generation" was ridiculous. This has just persuaded me otherwise.

        People who get terrified of doorbells terrify me. If people today really can't deal with something as mundane as a doorbell, I now understand why people have nervous breakdowns around things like minor accidents and equipment malfunctions.

        1. John G Imrie

          Re: Meanwhile in America ...

          You have just given me an idea for a new terrifying fairground ride, 'The hall of broken things'. The only way out is to ring the doorbell.

        2. jmch Silver badge

          Re: Meanwhile in America ...

          Wow that Millenial Doorbell thing is insane!

          Note the implication that if I'm texting/calling someone instead of ringing their doorbell, I'm expecting them to have their phone immediately at hand all the time or set to to a fairly loud ringer volume, AND conversely the same is expected of me when I'm at home. So for millenials the phone is more part of themselves than a seperate entity. Same for the doorbell ringing, can she really not just ignore it?? Insane!!

          I truly hope for the future of humanity that the ultra-connected circle-blogging arse-in-butt millenials are just the noisy few and that there is a sane silent majority out there somewhere

        3. LucreLout

          Re: Meanwhile in America ...

          Just google "millennial doorbell" if you doubt me.

          I doubted you and googled it. I used to think that the term "snowflake generation" was ridiculous. This has just persuaded me otherwise.

          Indeed. They seem to wear such attributes as being overly emotional or excessively sensitive about, well, everything, as being some sort of badge of honour. It's not. It's pointless. And stupid.

          Each generation worries about the younger generations, but by $DEITY, the Millennials, as a generation, are utterly screwed. They're just so incabale of weathering the smallest challenge, and seem to expect that they should be able to have the rewards for a lifetime of hard work and wealth / career building simply handed to them on a plate just because they have comical hair and ill fitting clothes.

          I could forgive them a lot, if only they weren't so whiney the whole time. Yes, buying a house is expensive - it was for Gen X too - but its absolutely doable if they prioritised their spending and understood that their first home is not supposed to be equivalent to their parents family home. Or just, you know, spend £4 a time on coffee, £15 on lunch, £150 on a night out, and £1000 on a phone every 5 mins, and blame the older generations instead.

          Gen X are utterly screwed when the boomers die out and the voting power skips over us and passes to the millennials.

          1. Trigonoceps occipitalis Silver badge

            Re: Meanwhile in America ...

            Just google "millennial doorbell" if you doubt me.

            I doubted you and googled it. I used to think that the term "snowflake generation" was ridiculous. This has just persuaded me otherwise.

            Well your wrong, I tried Wikipedia and such things don't exist.

      2. ciderbuddy

        Re: Meanwhile in America ...

        Had a quick read of - I don't believe a word of it. It sounds like a 30-something hipster journalist trying to be cool, but being completely pretentious....bugger, that's millennials isn't it? Just realized I'm getting old :(

        ps. I dont recommend the article it will make you want to puke

      3. Alistair

        Re: Meanwhile in America ...

        "the doorbell will cause existential crisis and personality meltdown in the millennial generation"

        I sadly am in parentis of two millennial children. And can quite honestly correct that statement :

        the next 10 minutes will cause existential crisis and personality meltdown in the millennial generation, perpetually.

        The eldest's partner exemplifies this situation, managing to turn a bruise from bumping into the bedframe into two weeks off due to injury. And that, that was the simple one to explain.

        I'm at a complete loss to understand the finer details of the issue, but I suspect that it really and truly comes down to a form of one upmanship in the vicitimitis competitions. Which is why the kids in florida are frankly blowing my mind.

  2. This post has been deleted by its author

    1. Peter2 Silver badge

      Re: Good time to leave the EU

      It's not a city led phase of decline.

      It's an inability to consider that if most of the population is earning barely enough to pay their rent and eat then those people won't have any disposable income, and any area of the economy expecting them to be spending money will decline because the customers can't afford to buy anything that doesn't present immediate value well beyond it's financial cost.

      Ergo, as more companies offshore work (because it's cheaper) and cease employing staff, and others reduce their wage bill the problem gets progressively worse.

      There are essentially two ways out of this situation IMO.

      1) Pay the workers more.

      2) Reduce the living costs of the workers.

      1. John G Imrie

        Re: Good time to leave the EU

        Well number 1 aint going to happen, so shanty towns it is then.

  3. RyokuMas

    No surprises...

    "A concerted effort is needed to restart, or even turbocharge, Britain's once-great achievements in academic enterprise"

    Something like raising the entry requirements and bringing back the grants would probably go a good way towards this - right now, universities are only good for qualifications that are pretty useless in the employment sense and getting a mountain of debt.

  4. Michael

    Support for researchers not academics required

    The on-going issue is that academics (in the main) don't want to accept the risk associated in a spin-out. The reality is that most spin-outs would be better run and managed by the research fellows/assistants/PhD students that actually develop the technology. A large number of universities continue to make it very difficult for people to spin out due to their desire to claim 20-30% stake in the company and maintain high levels of control over the company. This doesn't sit well with VCs and angel investors making it harder still to succeed.

    Academics tend to try to use the spin out process to help their academic career by proving the impact their research is having in the real world and using the company to gain further research grants that require a commercial partner. The motivation for academics is to stay in academia. They should be given the option, leave the uni, with the option to return in up to x years, or leave control to someone else that is willing to take the risk.

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    ITYM 'sell-outs'. Standard operating procedure at the minute appears to be:

    - Create company

    - Hype your internet-enabled nose-hair trimmer (or whatever) to idiotic levels - bonus points if it falls into the 'solution looking for a problem' category.

    - Get bought out by $BIGCORP

    - Cash out and run

    - Rinse and repeat.

    You can fucking keep it.

  6. DuncanLarge

    Ah, uni days! Drugs, sex, parties...

    Not at my uni lol. My Uni days were spent hacking underused HP-UX machines and discovering the best market stalls where I could grap a cheap retro game or add to my film camera collection.

    I'm such a geek.

    1. ciderbuddy

      Re: Ah, uni days! Drugs, sex, parties...

      I remember coming out of a lecture at uni, and someone mentioning ' this is nothing like the movies - where are all the toga parties etc' befored I reminded him we are computer scientists and our course only has 2 girls in the entire year.

      1. Simon Harris

        Re: Ah, uni days! Drugs, sex, parties...

        Two?! You were lucky! On my Electronic Engineering course in the 80s there was only one out of the 50 of us in our year. I think the previous year didn't have any.

  7. Cuddles Silver badge

    "poor return for taxpayers"

    Utter bollocks. Universities don't exist to create companies, they exist to teach and to engage in research. Sometimes that happens to result in people directly employed by a university and involved in some research being able to set up a company that can commercialise and profit on it in some way, far more often it simply results in the sum of human knowledge being increased in way that hopefully someone, somewhere will be able to make use of. Anyone who thinks universities are an investment that must pay off with a minimum number of unicorns per year is, in the politest possible way I can put it, a total fuckwit.

    1. strum

      Re: "poor return for taxpayers"

      >Utter bollocks. Universities don't exist to create companies, they exist to teach and to engage in research.


      If companies can't be bothered to do R&D, don't expect Unis to do it for them.

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    What is wrong with this picture?

    I love the squeaky-clean 'students' in the picture. I love the clean, airy, well-lit room they are hanging out in.

    Where is the dirty laundry on the floor? Where is the mould on the walls? Where are the overflowing ashtrays, empty beercans, dirty plates & the bong?

    Your student lifestyle should be the thing that convinces you to go out, get your act together, work hard & get rich, so you don't have to live like that anymore.

    No wonder the country is going to hell...

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    XXX Research

    One of the biggest problems is talented graduates who might be interested in forming a spin off, are being sucked in to the research arms of large corporations. Microsoft Research came to the UK with the express intent to prevent Cambridge from ever producing another Acorn. Graduates are tempted with supposedly unlimited budgets to play in whatever area they wish, but the corporation has little interest in most of the resulting technology, and the real goal is keeping them out of reach of anyone else.

  10. Steve D

    The elimination of student grants is to blame

    One obvious point is the effect of the elimination student grants in the recruitment of PhD students. If you have any bank debt from your undergraduate course then you want to start paying it off. If you delay for 3 years to do a PhD, the interest on that is still ticking up. So not many English & Welsh nationals want to start a PhD when they could be earning instead. So the places are taken by foreign nationals who tend to be far more mobile, and go elsewhere on graduation. They do not hang around to start a start-up.

    As PhD students are the cheap labour of the university system, this is important. Much of the knowledge gained in a PhD project remains in the head of the person who did it. To develop that project to the point that a start-up could be viable requires that person to stick around.

  11. Long John Brass

    single person startups

    Royal College of Art in London, of creating lots of single person startups, often made up of just one student or artist, with a single employee, no or low revenues, and zero IP

    So what you are saying is that lesbian feminist dance therapy doesn't pay well or produce any viable results?

    Colour me shocked...

  12. I am the liquor

    MIT produces one £1bn company each year


    Maybe we should put a bit of funding into this higher education thing.

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